Northern Ireland

MLA asks why Ulster players attended rugby rape trial

Iain Henderson and Rory Best Image copyright Pacemaker
Image caption Ulster and Ireland players Iain Henderson and Rory Best attended the trial on Wednesday

Alliance MLA Paula Bradshaw has said she has written to Ulster Rugby to ask what guidance was provided to team members over attending the rape trial of Paddy Jackson and Stuart Olding.

Ulster players Mr Jackson and Mr Olding both deny raping a woman in Belfast in June 2016.

On Wednesday, Ulster players Rory Best, Iain Henderson and Craig Gilroy were pictured attending the trial.

Asked on Friday why he had attended, Rory Best replied "no comment".

The previous day, when he was asked about Mr Best - the Ireland captain - going to the trial, Ireland coach Joe Schmidt said: "We're not in a position to comment on any of that, it's a legal matter."

Image copyright PAcemaker
Image caption Ulster rugby players Stuart Olding and Paddy Jackson both deny rape

When contacted on Friday, both Ulster Rugby and the IRFU said that "any person attending the trial does so in a personal capacity".

"Aside from that, we must respect the primacy and importance of the on-going trial and to do so we must ensure that we provide no information, or comment, that could either directly or indirectly impact upon it."

The Alliance Party's Ms Bradshaw said: "I'm really just as a public representative asking what guidance was provided to the players and members of their team in advance of this high-profile court case.

"We knew there was going to be a lot of media attention, and it was very foreseeable, and I think that in terms of getting their own house in order - Ulster Rugby - then I would like to think that they issued guidance to their members in advance of the court case and I would like to see that."